Forgiving someone who has hurt or wronged us can be one of the most difficult things we do in life. There are definitely benefits to forgiving others, though, and many of these are internal. As Muslims, we believe the “internal” refers not only to our mental health, but our spiritual state as well. Here are four ways in which forgiveness can be good for a person’s soul:
1. It Puts You at Ease
The struggle to forgive someone else is something that we have to go through on our own. Nobody else knows exactly how we have been affected by that person’s words or actions, so they can only do so much to support us. And even though we might feel like the other person doesn’t deserve our forgiveness, sometimes we have to push those thoughts aside and forgive them anyway— not for them, but for ourselves.
There’s a famous quote about forgiveness, which is: “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Nobody is affected by our unforgiving sentiments more than we are. The person who is asking (or not asking) for our forgiveness will most likely not be experiencing the same level of pain or disturbance as us. We owe it to ourselves to try to get rid of toxic thoughts and feelings, and oftentimes, this only comes with forgiving the person who made us feel that way.
2. It Shows That You’re Taking the High Road
Holding a grudge or taking revenge is easy; choosing to forgive others is hard. But it shows the strength of one’s character, and helps us grow spiritually.
3. It Helps You Fight Your Demons
We all have weaknesses, and for some of us, this includes a tendency to be resentful towards someone even after they have apologized to us. Forgiving them from the bottom of our hearts (not just saying “it’s okay,” while not really meaning it) is a difficult but effective way to combat that weakness.
Many of us also tend to be unforgiving towards ourselves— sometimes even more than we are to others. This can be one of the toughest battles to fight. Coming to terms with our mistakes, and learning to forgive ourselves for them, can give us the kind of inner peace that few other things in life will. It also allows us to be a source of positivity in the lives of others.
4. It Earns You Forgiveness from Allah
One thing that really helps me in forgiving others is to remind myself of my own shortcomings, and the times that I’ve messed up by hurting others or my own self. Yet I still hope and expect that Allah will forgive me, because He is the Most Merciful.
But why should I expect Allah to forgive me for even my biggest mistakes and wrongdoings, when I’m not even willing to try to do the same for others?
Allah (swt) Himself explains this concept beautifully in the Qur’an: “Let [those of virtue] pardon and overlook. Wouldn’t you love for Allah to forgive you? And Allah is ever-Forgiving, most Merciful.” (24:22)
Please note that everything stated above is NOT addressing victims of abuse or oppression. If you are currently being abused by someone, forgiving that person and turning the other cheek so they can continue hurting you is not an Islamic concept, and is not a sign of righteousness. Islam has no tolerance for abuse, oppression, or injustice. Please seek help so you will stop being harmed.
Also, if someone has committed a grave injustice towards you in the past, you have the full right to not forgive them. The thoughts shared in this article are intended to help us find inner contentment in our day-to-day lives and to make peace with what has been done to us. It is not a religious requirement, but those who choose to forgive people who may not deserve it, despite its difficulty, will be rewarded greatly inshaAllah.
May Allah (swt) make us of those who have the strength to forgive. Ameen.